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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 6, 2008

Hughes still battling for European place

Blackburn boss Mark Hughes insists his side will fight to the end to secure European qualification.

Rovers lost more ground yesterday as they were held to a draw - their second in succession - by Tottenham at Ewood Park.

The result has left them eighth in the Premier League with just five games to play and, with the next three against top-six sides, their hopes of reaching the Intertoto Cup are receding.

Blackburn travel to Liverpool next week, host leaders Manchester United six days later and then take on FA Cup finalists Portsmouth before the end of the month.

By contrast rivals Aston Villa, who moved above Rovers with victory over Bolton, next take on relegated Derby and then another struggling side in Birmingham.

Hughes said: 'We are still in the mix, we have got five games to go and are still challenging for things. That's where we want to be at this stage of every season.

'We are competing and want to be trying to achieve things right to the very last Sunday of every season.

'Villa have got difficult games, so have we, but it is up to us to just concentrate on what we can do.

'We have always done reasonably well at Anfield and I am sure United target Blackburn at Ewood as a key game in their run-in. We feel they will respect us as we will them.'

Hughes has strong faith in his team's ability and feels they have already done themselves proud this term.

Mid-table Tottenham were tipped to challenge the top four at the start of the campaign and Hughes is pleased to see Rovers above them.

The former Wales boss said: 'We are competing with the likes of Tottenham, Villa, Manchester City.

'These are clubs with resources we can't entertain but we have shown we can compete with them.

'We have taken four points off them (Tottenham) and taken points off the other teams around us.

'That is what we have to do but it becomes more difficult year in, year out.'

Hughes also has no doubts about the way his team needs to play in the closing weeks of the season.

Rovers can now afford to drop few points and in explaining yesterday's half-time decision to replace defender Andre Ooijer with the more attack-minded Brett Emerton, Hughes made his approach clear.

'I felt we needed to be a little more dynamic,' he said. 'We need to win games at this stage of the season, that is why we try to be positive.

'We will try to be positive in the last four or five games where we feel we can be. It wasn't to be against a good Spurs side who are probably better than their league position shows, but I thought we were more than a match for them.

'Spurs had the better of the opening part of the game but I felt we acquitted ourselves more than well.

'We are still above a Spurs team that has been invested very heavily in, still above them in the Premier League. That's a feather in our cap I suppose.'

Blackburn had to come from behind for their point after Dimitar Berbatov tapped home his 22nd goal of the season from close range in the seventh minute.

It came following good work from Steed Malbranque, who threaded through a fine ball for Jermaine Jenas to square for the Bulgarian in front of goal.

Blackburn's equaliser on the half-hour was similarly well worked with David Bentley beautifully controlling a crossfield ball from Steven Reid, powering past Pascal Chimbonda and crossing for Morten Gamst Pedersen to finish.

Both sides then had plenty of opportunities to create further goals in an open contest but neither could carve out enough clear-cut openings.

A draw was a fair result but Blackburn felt they should have had a penalty late on when Bentley collided with Spurs substitute Gilberto.

Hughes added: 'We felt a penalty should have been awarded and it wasn't, so we feel a little bit aggrieved over that decision.

'But, overall, I felt we showed good quality and good character to get back on level terms.'